Following the two fires at Gadani shipbreaking yards reported last week, NGO Shipbreaking Platform blasted owners for selling their vessels to cash buyers that bring their ships to Pakistani yards, notorious for poor work safety record.
As World Maritime News reported earlier this week, seven people were injured, while three are in critical condition after an oil tanker named Kriti caught fire in Gadani ship-breaking yard on Sunday, October 14.
This was the second incident in a week as another tanker caught fire on October 11 at Gadani shipbreaking yard. However, no injuries were reported. The suspected cause of the fire is inadequate cleaning of ships from residual oil.
“Ship owners should be held accountable. They carelessly sell vessels to cash buyers that bring the ships to the Pakistani yards. The high profit margin is a clear indicator of destination: the higher the price, the worse the yard,” says Ingvild Jenssen, Director of NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
“We are concerned over the political clout ship owners seem to enjoy: Greek owners alone are responsible for 1/3 of the ships that are currently beached in Gadani, yet Greece is pushing hard to undermine European laws aimed at improving practices globally.”
As informed, the Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had approved the breaking of both vessels that caught fire last week. The platform believes that Balochistan EPA acted negligently when approving the work to start, as it is believed that the vessels had not been properly cleaned from highly inflammable residual oil.
Ban on Shipbreaking Activities at Gadani
The two blasts resulted in a ban on all shipbreaking activities in Gadani.
“Without having conducted a proper inspection, the Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency first issued NOC (no objection certificate) for the breaking of the Kriti crude oil tanker. After the blast that injured seven workers, they issued a ban on all shipbreaking activities in Gadani, leaving hundreds of workers unemployed.
“We call on the authorities to take serious steps to move the industry away from the Gadani beach and to a location where proper infrastructure can ensure safe working conditions and pollutants can be controlled,” says Dr Muhammad Irfan Khan, Board Member of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
According to the platform’s data, at least five fires have been reported at Gadani due to unsafe operations since the catastrophic explosion that killed at least 29 workers and injured 58 on November 1, 2016. The situation is further aggravated by difficult access for firefighters, a severe lack of ambulances and no hospital in the close vicinity of the yards, the platform said citing data from trade unions.
The catastrophic blast resulted in an 18-month freeze of tanker breaking operations in Pakistan, only to be lifted in April this year, without any particular safety improvements being made in the process, and endangering workers’ lives yet again.